“You can not always control circumstances, but you can control your own thoughts.” ~Author Unknown

Such a simple quote truly captures the essence of two vital principles for living a balanced and happy life: Relinquish control. Retain Choice. (Today, we will explore the first principle of relinquishing control; on Monday, we will discuss the power and certainty of retaining choice.)

You can’t always control the circumstances. Out of all of the events that influence and affect our lives, so many of them are forever outside of our control.

There will be things that we never understand; times when we can’t piece why we’ve been deeply hurt by someone we love; situations that occur unto us that we had no way of ever avoiding. You can’t always steer the circumstances. Thus, we must learn to relinquish the idea that we can find, grasp, and hold onto a sense of “control” over what happens in our lives. There is no crystal ball in life. Nevertheless, we will always retain the power of choice.

You can and will always control your own thoughts: we will forever retain the ability to think freely. Human beings are always able to choose how to think, act, and react — even to situations outside of our influence and direction — no matter what occurs over the course of our lives. Relinquish control. Retain Choice. By striving to embody these two principles for living, we will find greater balance, happiness and inner peace.

The Circumstances of Our Lives

We must abandon the idea that we will somehow, some way have total control over the circumstances of our lives — the events that affect and afflict us. There is so much in our lives that we can’t be controlled. Realizing this, we still try to assert it over many aspects of our lives — namely, in our careers, relationships and friendships. One young woman I know comes to mind; her name is Gloria.

Gloria is a young, attractive, and bright-minded 20-something. Gloria has the world at her fingertips, but because of a series of unpleasant relationships and experiences in her youth, she attempts to exert an all-knowing control over her life in the present moment to ensure that the pain she has suffered in the past won’t reoccur in the future. Gloria is attempting to control the uncontrollable nature of life.

She is tortured by what she cannot understand yet desperately longs to fully comprehend. Gloria — in attempting to both reign over and hinder what cannot be controlled — is thus enslaved. By limiting the chances through which others may hurt her, Gloria is limiting her life’s potential: she is missing experiences she could be having, friendships and relationships she could be sharing, and most importantly, vital living opportunities that would allow her to grow and mature and become an even better person.

Why do we try to obtain control in our lives?

Mostly because of fear and insecurity. If life is one thing, it is uncertain. Life can truly be terrifying, and it only takes the loss of a loved one, a terrible breakup or abusive relationship to become completely jaded, disheartened and disillusioned. Control appears to promise safety.

It’s no wonder why someone who has been hurt so gravely would try to ensure that similar hurt, pain and unpleasantness wouldn’t happen again. But, such is life! Without the dark, there would be no light; without the pain, there would be no bliss; without suffering, there would be no happiness.

We must free ourselves from the unattainable goal of controlling every influence and circumstance of our lives. Striving to control all — if even just most — aspects of our lives is to allow one’s mind to become brutally enslaved: throughout the struggle of attempting to keep a check upon everything in our lives that simply can’t be controlled, we become controlled. Attempting to influence and direct every aspect and circumstance that unfolds in our lives is a futile practice that will only cause us to become obsessively constrained by the never-ending fight — one that can’t ever be won.

How to Be Freed by Relinquishing Control

Relinquishing control is as simple as telling yourself — and perpetually recalling — that much in life is outside of our control. The realization should not spur on feelings of helplessness and fear, but relief and freedom. Everything that occurs in your life does not explicitly fall on your shoulders: you are free from what once felt like a burden, and thus, will live more true to self, with less to fear and less to regret.

For all that cannot be controlled in our lives, we as human beings — free thinkers, believers, dreamers — always possess the ability and aptitude to choose how we react to difficult and trying situations that are sure to unfold. If another thing in life is certain, it is choice. We always possess the ability to choose to fight, to believe, to strive, to dream, and finally, to overcome. Relinquish control. Retain choice. Achieve greater balance, happiness and inner peace.